LONDON–– As part of Frieze Week, Phillips is celebrating modern and contemporary ceramics with an innovative exhibition and sale – Shape & Space: New Ceramic Presence. This curated selection of works showcases a specific realm that has often been overlooked, by focusing on artists who use clay as one of the many languages to express their vision. Curated by internationally renowned writer, critic and curator Francesco Bonami, Shape & Space will include works by Hans Coper, Lucio Fontana, Roy Lichtenstein, Ron Nagle, George Ohr, Pablo Picasso, Lucie Rie, Peter Voulkos, and Ai Weiwei, among others. Producing a platform upon which ceramists are put in dialogue with post-war and contemporary artists, Shape & Space is born out of the desire to address the ever-increasing central place of clay and ceramic in contemporary art. Shape & Space are on view at 30 Berkeley Square from September 28 to October 5, 2018, when it will be sold at auction ahead of the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale.
Featured image: Betty Woodman, Balustrade Relief Vase 07-4, 2007, Glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, and paint, 53 1/4 x 62 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches
Francesco Bonami, Curator, said: “The artists’ use of ceramics reflects their wish to convey to the viewer a more direct relationship with the material and the shaping of forms and content. I believe ceramics are one of the last links between art, craft, visual art, design and contemporary art. Our upcoming exhibition and sale, Shape & Space, will foster and reinforce the dialogue amongst them.”
A leading highlight of the sale is a selection of ceramics by George Ohr. Known as ‘The Mad Potter of Biloxi’, Ohr rarely sold his best works and confessed that he thought of these vases as his ‘clay babies’. Amongst the Ohr works in this sale is Tall red two-handled vase. This bright red vase illustrates Ohr’s search for the perfect red glaze, transitioning from vivid to dark whilst clouds of blue and other colours break through. The top and bottom halves are composed of two vessels joined together by matched handles which marry the two shapes and give the pot a visual unity. Ohr added handles when he was trying to bring balance to his more complex forms. This reveals how considered his process of constructing pots was. In Mottled two-sided two-handled vase, Ohr also combines two vases into one. On the left the handle does not melt into the pot, the glaze is dark and mottled, tense and compressed. In contrast the right side is optimistically yellow and the handle easily flows from the pot. This pot’s rim is the sculptural focus: the lip has been bifurcated and folded, a sexual metaphor. The result is a new liberated form.
Alexander Payne, Worldwide Head of Design and Deputy Chairman, Europe, said: “While conceived as an autonomous sale, Shape & Space will also be installed as a compelling exhibition. This takes place at a critical moment in the art market, with demand increasing for ceramic works by blue-chip contemporary artists who are garnering enormous international attention, yet prices are still accessible enough to appeal to a wide and hugely varied demographic of collectors. We want to capitalise on the current momentum and create a unique moment in the market, presenting ceramic and clay works as masterpieces in their own right, promoted alongside the highest quality contemporary art and sculpture by the leading 20th century and contemporary artists.”
Included in the sale is Lucio Fontana’s Cavallo. This dynamic clay horse is an example of Fontana’s crucial ceramic contributions to art history. The principles for which the artist is most celebrated – space, dimensionality and the gestural intervention of the artist’s hand – are central to this work. Cavallo is rendered in a form that is suggestive of the figurative animal yet simultaneously a visceral and abstract register of the artist’s process, displaying the creative potency and material density of Fontana’s ceramic artistry.
Works from contemporary artists include Ai Weiwei’s Hie Xie, a porcelain installation made up of approximately 2,300 parts Directly translated as ‘crab’, and more faintly as both ‘harmonious’ and ‘censorship’, Hie Xie demonstrates Ai Weiwei’s power of political satire through ceramics. His island of ceramic crabs references the many layers of Chinese society, from food to mass and handmade production to politics. In performing a pretend displacement of marine life, Ai Weiwei thus brings forth issues of privacy and human rights at large. An influential artist and ceramist, Ai Weiwei’s work represents the ability of ceramics to inform and surprise the viewer through varied mediums and forms.
The sale also champions emerging artists including Roberto Lugo’s satirical and populist Obama and Me. Somewhat in sync with Weiwei, Lugo’s art encapsulates the larger scope of his activist philosophy. A poet, rapper, graffiti-artist, ceramic professor, and self-described ‘ghetto-potter,’ Lugo’s ceramic work serves as a first-person narrative to illustrate the history of inequality, racism, and Puerto Rican culture. Lugo juxtaposes different styles and cultures within his hand-painted pottery to outline and reframe historical ideas of ceramic patterns and motifs, which, when exhibited alongside earlier works in this sale, presents an interesting dialogue. Infusing elements of politics, graffiti, and hip-hop culture within his pottery, Lugo bends the conversation of his work to incorporate his vision of himself as a channel to link people from underrepresented communities to be in the conversation of the arts. In approaching the history of ceramics to illustrate his belief that art can ‘find unity in the world within which we exist’, Lugo’s work branches into global-minded activism. His studio work includes graffiti, pottery, and large detailed ceramics, which have garnered him a powerful voice, platform, and aesthetic within the sphere of contemporary art.
View the auction’s gorgeous catalog here.
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